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Re: Confuciusornis feather length and flight mode

On Tue, Mar 22, 2011 at 3:24 PM, Jason Brougham <jaseb@amnh.org> wrote:

> True, they do describe Confuciusornis's mosaic of flight adaptations as
> paradoxical. But here is the quote that gave me pause:
> "However, very elongate, thin and narrow wings (Martin & Zhou, 1998;
> Chiappe et al., 1999; Peters & Ji, 1999; Zinoviev, 2009), narrow primary
> rachises (Nudds & Dyke, 2010) and anatomy indicating no flapping upstroke
> capability suggest that Confuciusornis was almost certainly a glider."

I took this statement as capturing the essence of these cited papers,
rather than the authors actually endorsing the view that
_Confuciusornis_ was a glider.  But that was just how I read it.

BTW, the distinction between 'glider' and 'flapper' is not a
dichotomy.  After all, a glider could theoretically flap its forelimbs
in order to prolong its path.  Basal birds such as _Confuciusornis_
may have straddled the transition between passive glider and powered
(flapping) flier.

> But I am intrigued to consider that Confuciusornis may well have had
> unusual flight behaviors not seen in extant birds. That would make perfect
> sense.

Yes, I agree.  But the specifics of these "unusual flight behaviors"
remain elusive.

When it comes to aerial locomotion, its clear that a great deal of
experimentation went on among maniraptorans, before one kind of flight
(= that employed by modern birds) became the 'standard'.